Standard Grade Folio CEL

Standard Grade Folio CEL
Choose a prose non-fiction text which deals with at least one powerful human
emotion. Show how the writer’s presentation of his subject makes this a memorable
piece of writing.
You can refer to techniques such as structure, setting, narrative voice and other
relevant areas.
Introduction: 5 key points
Fergal Keane’s reflective essay, “Letter to My Father”, is a prose non-fiction text
which deals with the powerful emotions of love and regret. He evokes these themes
sensitively and presents his subject thoughtfully, through the techniques of
structure, setting and narrative voice. Indeed, I felt deeply moved after reading this
work and it has left a lasting impression on my mind because I can identify with this
Paragraph 2: Summary
His ‘letter’ reveals his difficult family life as a child due to his father’s alcoholism.
Nevertheless, although the family break up, his letter concludes with his reflections
of love and regret which are conveyed in a very personal tone and style. As it is
written after his father’s death it surely is a device for him to express his own
repressed feelings and reflect on his relationship and unhappy memories. As a form
of catharsis it is very effective as it is a way of coming to terms with the situation.
Paragraph 3
The structure of his autobiographical work is built in three sections, each presenting
the subject of his father ‘s decline in a different manner. It opens with the vivid
description of the family home at Christmas making the setting in time and place very
poignant . This is effective as we are all likely to be more emotional at this time of
year. This first anecdote describes the father already detached from the family who
are ‘preparing to leave’ him. He is ‘sleeping’ behind the bedroom door but this is a
euphemism for his intoxicated state. There is strong evidence to show the father’s
fragmented existence:
his ‘snores rattling’……..’ruined sitting
room’……’crashed’…….’dead drunk’…..’spinning in your own wild
orbit’……’broken chairs/dreams’……’overturned Christmas tree’.
This setting describes sad images which moved me deeply. Furthermore, we are
given a sense of the father’s voice expressing his ambitions as a Hollywood actor,
with the words ‘this would be the year of the big break’. It becomes clear that
promises have been repeated endlessly and in fact this is a pun as it is ironic since it
is the mother and two sons who are breaking away from him. Despite the chaotic
scene Keane’s tone is very controlled since as a young boy he must have felt
helpless at this momentous event taking place. Their furtive escape, ‘stealing away
in the grey morning’ ends this first section with a sense of optimism and relief with
the words, ‘but I don’t care, we’re heading south with everything we own.’ His
feelings of love and regret can be summed up here when he says, ‘I look into the
bedroom and I say goodbye.’ Clearly he loves his father and there is a sense of a
love/hate relationship.
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In the middle section another anecdote is recalled with a change of setting as the
family have settled elsewhere. Indeed, with a single, short phone call, the father’s
voice is a strong presence although he is now ‘halfway sober’, ringing from a pub
…’glasses clinking’ …..’voices raised’. His purpose is to wish his son a happy twelfth
birthday and to speak to the mother to ‘Tell her I love her’ as she refused to come to
the phone.
The theme of love is evoked as the phone call ended abruptly and Keane maturely
reflects, ‘I began to understand what made love the saddest word in any language.’
He creates a strong, convincing sense of regret that his father is not in control of his
life and this continues in a later memory when the father has access to his children.
What has changed is that the father has made a big effort to appear smart in his
‘new suit’, and his ‘embarrassed embrace’ in an attempt to impress. However, ‘the
smell of whiskey permeates his presence so much that the taxi driver disapproved at
him being in charge of children. No doubt Keane’s feelings of love for his father were
tempered with regret since the root problem remained.
Another example is when they are in a café and alcohol is evident as ‘drinks were
spilled’, the waitress was appalled and when asked for an autograph his father’s
‘shaking hand struggled to write, before they beat a mortified retreat’. It is clear the
situation deteriorated as ‘Elvis was crooning’ on a juke box, ‘Love Me Tender, Love
Me Sweet’. Yet again how ironic these words are. This part concludes with a very
moving image as he is finally driven away from their lives. Keane uses metaphor
here when he writes, ‘I saw through the steamed-up windows that your eyes had
become waterfalls.’ This is a very effective parting image as it reveals the
vulnerability of the father who also has strong emotions of love and regret. The
setting of both parts paints a very convincing picture of reality.
Paragraph 5
The narrative voice in the final section is more reflective about the past. This is in
contrast to the account of facts which dominated the previous two parts. It seems to
me that he reflects on his naivety as a youth in failing to realise the father’s
awareness that his life was broken so he now empathises with his condition. There
is also a strong feeling of trying to justify the reasons why they never met again: ‘we
struggled to find one another and you were drifting closer to darkness’. This is an
ominous tone and he uses repetition to support his efforts: ‘at the end I gave up
writing, gave up calling. I gave up.’ Then ‘you were gone’. This suggests to me not
only a feeling of guilt but also an awareness that it was all inevitable, sadly. The very
moving conclusion shows that he treasures a gift from his father ,of Raymond Carver
short stories, sent through the post. He strongly regrets not having sent his father a
Christmas card and expresses powerfully, by using hyperbole, ‘Now I would send
you a thousand, but I have no address.’
For me, Fergal Keane’s prose non-fiction work, “Letter to My Father’, convincingly
deals with the powerful human emotions of love and regret. The writer’s presentation
of his subject - his relationship with his father - is a very memorable piece of
autobiographical writing done in a beautiful lyrical style. His sensitive use of
language and line of thought, structured to give anecdotal evidence, is a great
expression of love and regret.
Essay total of 1067 words so needs to be shortened!